The Story of Miss Evie
When I was approached to partner Schnauzerfest up with Australian rescuers and campaigners I immediately thought that if I was to agree, the work of Oscar’s Law would be part of the educational side of Schnauzerfest Australia. For a number of years, Oscar’s Law has been investigating, exposing and playing a key part in closing puppy factories/farms, and along the way have rescued many dogs. Well this year Schnauzerfest Australia is a thing, it’s raising awareness of puppy farming and money to support good rescues. And now it’s time to share the first story of an Australian dog, who will provide much inspiration for walkers across the world this weekend.
Evie, was rescued by Oscar’s Law and helped on the way to her new life by two of the rescues which Schnauzerfest Australia 2018 funds will support: Schnauzer Rescue Victoria and Schnauzer Rescue New South Wales. Aged 4 when she was saved from a Victorian puppy farm in 2016, Evie had been used for breeding and had carried 4 litters. As her last 2 litters were stillborn she was no longer needed and surrendered to Oscar’s Law. The puppy farmer stated she’d been fed a diet of bread and water. Her vet notes at rescue reveal a disturbing record of neglect and suffering:
Overweight at 17kg in crate, severe ear infections in both ears (required sedation to be treated properly), bilateral corneal opacity, scale in hair and loss of hair in rump region, dental calculus and gingival recession, 6 dental extractions, evidence of previous caesarean and “significant adhesions” with “wound breakdown” of the uterus.
I asked Evie’s adopter, Maddie, to tell me more about Evie, her schnauzer sister Esme, their journey together and some of the issues they’ve faced. As is common with dogs from this background, Evie arrived with many psychological issues, but Maddie had a good understanding of how to help her, due both to her knowledge of, and commitment to positive reinforcement methods but also, with a professional background as a social worker. As patience, compassion and empathy are critical elements when adopting a traumatised dog, I found it particularly interesting to hear how Evie and Maddie’s life together has evolved. One of the first things Maddie mentioned is one I wrote about in Saving Susie-Belle, as she did exactly the same,
There were many psychological issues but the one that really broke my heart was that Evie would rest and at times sleep, sitting upright. She’d pick a wall, corner or couch, lean up against it and stare at the ground, sometimes for hours. I often wondered what she was thinking. Did the place she come from not have enough room to lay? Had years of trauma left her on constant alert? Was she depressed?
I clearly remember thinking Susie-Belle didn’t recognise the comfort on offer and couldn’t let herself relax as she sat half upright, unable to lay in her bed; I’ll never forget the first time she did it. Across the world, dogs are being harmed in the same terrible ways.
Evie’s sister Esme has proven to be her best friend, but it wasn’t immediately plain sailing as Maddie explains,
It took a while for Esme to fully accept Evie but they’re now best friends. A large reason was because Evie didn’t know how to be a normal dog. She’d try and play with Esme but had no idea of appropriate play and would lunge herself off the couch right on top of Esme, barrel her over, repeatedly bark in her face and was frankly just too rough for Esme’s liking.
But with time and patience, Esme and Evie are now close companions. Maddie’s trained Esme to ‘get Evie’ which I think is a brilliant idea and could be very useful. As Evie’s eyesight isn’t good, and may deteriorate in future, Esme has learned to run up to Evie, make contact and return to Maddie, sometimes with Evie in tow. Although Evie doesn’t always follow Esme back, she’s continuing to learn and Maddie fully expects that when needed, she’ll do it.
Working together in this way as a tight, intelligent unit is paying off for Evie in many ways and I admire Maddie’s approach and intuition to know how best to help her. There really are no hard and fast rules when we adopt a breeding dog, despite similar behaviours manifesting. Maddie for example describes the issue Evie has with doorways, a commonly seen behaviour, and how she’s helped her work through this,
Evie struggled to make decisions, the biggest being whether or not to walk through the back door. She would stand half inside and half out, or come in just to run outside again and stare at the entry. But she’s now learnt to make decisions which I believe has been important for her. If she doesn’t walk through the door it shuts and re-opens a few minutes later. I don’t call her in or put a trail of food because I want her to decide what she truly wants; I want her to create the neural connections vital for healthy decision making.
I like this approach and it’s been something I’ve done a bit with Cerise, more than I did with Twinkle where everything was a lot more frantic in our early days together as she was far more feral-like. This next bit also sounds very Cerise-like whereas Susie-Belle never showed this behaviour, again showing dogs are unique and deserve to be treated so,
Evie hated being picked up or touched, especially unexpectedly, and when it was required she was like a wild animal, which resulted in me getting bitten a few times. After a trigger Evie would hide for the rest of the day and need to sleep it off. I believe she has PTSD.
Drawing on her training and experience in trauma, Maddie has adapted key methods and understanding to help Evie and believes that Evie needed to form a secure attachment with her family, which took time but was achieved. Further, and interestingly, that she had to learn to be a puppy before she could be a mentally healthy mature dog which was done with lots of help from Esme ‘mothering her’, through which Evie ‘grew up’ quickly. Once Maddie felt this was achieved, training became more a part of their daily life and has been a great success.
Evie is now an off-lead dog in all allowable places. She’s a little stubborn at times but her recall is good. And Maddie is especially pleased with this,
If she gets a fright, she runs to me, not off in a random panic. She can now be picked up and puts her paw out when I lean down to her. One wouldn’t know Evie is a rescue when meeting her now. She’s a happy, confident and bright girl who loves life. She even gives out pats and cuddles to strangers! She has a big social life at the local dog park and many dog friends to visit.
What a turnaround for Evie and testament to the dedication and love of Maddie and Esme. But her life could so easily have ended in the puppy farm as she had a decaying uterus and a further pregnancy would have killed her. She must have lived in excruciating pain for some time and yet the puppy farm was legally run.Thank goodness for her initial rescuers, those who helped her on her way to health and adoption by Maddie.
This is why Schnauzerfest Australia and Schnauzerfest UK will be out walking this weekend, to raise funds to support the rescues who devote themselves to saving dogs like Evie, plus telling the world that puppy farming is wrong on every level.
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